The date and location of the first Thanksgiving celebration is a topic of modest contention. Though the earliest attested Thanksgiving celebration was on September 8, 1565 in what is now Saint Augustine, Florida, the traditional “first Thanksgiving” is venerated as having occurred at the site of Plymouth Plantation, in 1621. The Plymouth celebration occurred early in the history in one of the original thirteen colonies that became the United States, and this celebration became an important part of the American myth by the 1800s.
Today, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October in Canada and on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States. Thanksgiving dinner is held on this day, usually as a gathering of family members and friends.
Thanksgiving Day History
The Pilgrims who sailed to America were originally members of the English Separatist Church. Before going to America they had fled to Holland to escape religious persecution. Although, in Holland, they enjoyed more religious tolerance, but they eventually became disillusioned with the Dutch way of life. In the hope of a better life in, they took the help of a London stock company to move out to America. Most of those making this trip aboard the Mayflower were non-Separatists. Only about one-third of the original colonists were Separatists.
They reached Plymouth in 1620. There, they had to face a terrible winter. Around 46 of the original 102 had died by the next fall. But fortune turned in their favor and the harvest of the next year was bumper. And the remaining colonists decided to celebrate with a feast — including 91 Indians who had helped the Pilgrims survive their first year. It is believed that the Pilgrims would not have made it through the year without the help of the natives. The feast was more of a traditional English harvest festival than a true “thanksgiving” observance. It lasted three days. Governor William Bradford sent “four men fowling” after wild ducks and geese. It is not certain that wild turkey was part of their feast. However, it is certain that they had venison. The term “turkey” was used by the Pilgrims to mean any sort of wild fowl.